Johann Arnason's theory of soviet modernity and the studies of Russian political culture

In the article civilizational analysis as a theoretical perspective in contemporary sociology is discussed. The importance of Johann Arnason’s analysis of Soviet modernity for the study of Russian society is characterized. Arnason’s analysis of the multiple forms of modernity is widely discussed in today’s historical sociology. At the same time his study of the Soviet version of modernity has attracted relatively less attention than some other aspects of his work. Nevertheless, Arnason’s analysis of the Soviet model represents an original approach to the communist regime in Russia that deserves further theoretical development. While Arnason does not discuss in detail the processes of social and political change in post-Soviet Russia his approach can be applied to this problematic as well. The functionalist modernization theory cannot account for reversals in economic and political liberalization but Arnason’s ideas add new explanatory dimensions to transformation research. It is argued that Arnason’s theoretical propositions can be complemented with research on Russian political culture by sociologists from the Levada Center. The studies of Boris Dubin and Lev Gudkov present a broad picture of social life in post-Soviet Russia. These authors follow a distinct approach that combines Yurii Levada’s model of the Soviet person with elements of western sociological and political theories. The studies of Levada Centre demonstrate that in the 2000s most of Russian population accepted the Soviet epoch as a kind of ‘invented tradition’ and expressed nostalgia for the years of Brezhnev’s rule. However, some theoretical statements particularly in Gudkov’s works can be questioned from the viewpoint of the multiple modernities perspective in contemporary sociology. The Soviet system can be seen not as a deviation from the only road to modernity but as a specific form of modern society that possessed distinctive civilizational features. The multiple modernities approach can be seen as an important theoretical resource for understanding social processes in post-Soviet Russia.

For citation: Maslovskiy M.V. Johann Arnason’s theory of soviet modernity and the studies of Russian political culture. St. Petersburg Sociology Today. 2014. N. 5. P. 187-198.